Finally, about ten years ago, the light began to dawn, and you can’t imagine how disappointed I was. I realized that parenting is not a cause and effect proposition. It’s not a vending machine in which I insert my actions (seizing teachable moments, training in character, consistency in discipline) and then am rewarded by equal and corresponding reactions (obedience, respect, good behavior).
I’m a slow learner, so this was earth-shattering for me, but . . .
Having said that, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World by Kristen Welch reminds me that if I want my children to appreciate their blessings and to operate out of gratitude rather than entitlement, I had better be modeling the right heart attitude myself.
In the Great Balancing Act called parenting, we are at war against three words: “Is that all?” In ourselves, in our kids, Western culture exacerbates our entrenched selfishness in everything from “ice cream servings to allowances.” “Enough” is never enough.
Kristen is writing from the trenches of raising three kids, and so the tone of Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World is NOT “we have arrived and here’s how your kids can ooze gratitude like our perfect children do.” She comes alongside her readers with humble offerings: “Here’s what we’re doing. Here’s what others have tried, and that’s great, too.” Kristen’s perspective is derived from the knowledge that parents who are willing to fight against the prevailing culture and for an attitude of thankfulness in their children will feel as if they are swimming upstream.
My oldest son talked early — and often — so I can still hear his husky toddler voice saying, “There’s a difference between a need and a want.” To me! Even so, one need that is common to all kids is their parents’ love, and ironically, in our culture of possessions and privileges, it is common to find children who are sadly lacking in that need while every want is speedily fulfilled.
No one sets out with a goal of “spoiling” her children, but little daily choices that arise from incorrect thinking accomplish the task over time. Kristen unmasks some of these:
- We want our kids to be our friends.
- We’re afraid to say no because of the fallout (slammed doors, tears, eye rolling, shouting).
- We feel guilty about our circumstances and try to compensate with permissiveness.
- We are busy. We eat fast food on the way to one of Junior’s three different soccer league practices, take on an extra job to pay for a Disneyland vacation, and don’t have time for the slow work of eyeball to eyeball interaction in which we pass on our values.
- We don’t want them to fail, so we make things “easy” for them.
- We don’t want them to feel left out, so we cave to the “everyone else” argument.
- We don’t want them to be unhappy.
It is not for nothing, then, that Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World provides an end-of-each-chapter assortment of age-related hints for going against the flow.
“Put a plan in place. Decide in advance what you will say ‘yes’ to.”
“Make cookies together. You may eat one for your effort, and then give the rest away to brighten someone’s day. Teach your children that we don’t have to keep everything for ourselves.”
For elementary age:
“Clean out closets and drawers, and instead of giving away only things that they won’t miss, urge your kids to include something they really love to share with someone else.”
“It may seem to your son or daughter as if she’s the only one in her class or he’s the only one in his grade or on this planet who isn’t fitting in or keeping up. But if we are going to compare ourselves to others, let’s also compare ourselves to kids who live in poverty.”
The award for most practical feature goes to the chapter called “Making Smart Choices about Technology” with its related idea of a cell phone contract.
Central to all this intentionality and hard work is the goal of introducing kids to the freedom of self-discipline; to the security that comes from seeing parents follow through on their principles; and the self-confidence that can only come to kids who have been allowed to “struggle” a bit and then to solve their own problem before a parent comes swooping in to rob them of the privilege. We must love our children enough to make the hard choices that lead to a lifestyle of gratitude.
This book was provided by Tyndale Momentum, an imprint of Tyndale House Publishing, in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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